I would also seriously consider B&K in this price range.
I started out with Adcom gear and then went to Rotel and Parasound gear. I think that the rotels sound more refined than the Adcom stuff but I definately recommend listening yourself to see what you like. Some of the older Adcoms are going pretty cheap these days. If money is an issue, buy the Adcom and try it out. If you want better, sell it for what you paid for it and buy the rotel or other similarly priced gear and give it a shot.